THE RISE OF THE KRAYS (2015) AND THE FALL OF THE KRAYS (2016). A DOUBLE REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE RISE OF THE KRAYS (2015) AND THE FALL OF THE KRAYS (2016). DIRECTED BY ZACKARY ADLER.
STARRING SIMON COTTON, KEVIN LESLIE, PHIL DUNSTER, DANNY MIDWINTER AND ALEXA MORDEN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Wow. These two low-budget films, based on the true life stories of notorious British gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, claim to leave out the glamorisation of the twins’ stories and to leave us with the impression that its two subjects are nothing more than two truly nasty pieces of work. Well, job done, because both films are heavy going and the twins have no redeeming features in them whatsoever.

It’s not entirely realistic, however, because no-one is truly all bad, or even all good, for that matter. Even Hitler had his redeeming features. He loved dogs, especially his own bow-wow Blondi. He liked children, and the offspring of that charming couple, the Goebbels,’ doted on him and called him Uncle Adolf.

He was a vegetarian too, and even though I know that that doesn’t automatically make a person ‘good,’ if he’d been alive today he probably would have been to the forefront of the ‘save the earth by stopping eating meat’ campaign. Isn’t that a really weird thought…?

But the Kray twins in these two films just come across as thugs, brutish, humourless and incapable of feeling love or kindness, never mind mercy, towards any of their fellow men, or women.

Their mother Violet is not seen in the film except in brief, dialogue-less flashback, so we are not able to witness the twins’ adoration for her that the 1990 film, THE KRAYS, with Martin Kemp and Gary Kemp in the starring roles, deals with so well.

THE RISE OF THE KRAYS just shows us the twins beating people up for nearly two hours until eventually they pretty much run the criminal underworld in ‘50s and ‘60s London. There doesn’t seem to have been any crime in which they didn’t participate; protection rackets, arson, armed robbery, and, finally, murder. They leave behind them a trail of bloody and broken bodies, all casualties of their ferocious, overwhelming need for more and more power.

Ronnie, like in the superb 1990 film, is portrayed as the more violent and angry of the twins, the one that always goes too far and has to be pulled away by Reggie, who’s screaming things like, come away, Ron, leave him, he’s dead already! They allowed people to get into huge debt to them, and then mutilated or crippled them in retaliation.

Ronnie’s mental illness, his schizophrenia, is dealt with here. He did in fact finish his life in Broadmoor, the high security mental hospital, and would have been on medication, one presumes, till the end of his days. While he was at large, however, no-one, not even his beloved twin, could keep him in check.

It was his excesses, and his genuine feeling that he and his brother were ‘untouchable,’ that led to his carelessness and to his making the mistake of shooting people in front of witnesses.

Usually, witnesses to their crimes could be leaned on and ‘persuaded’ neither to testify against the Krays in court nor to single them out in identity parades, but every dog has his day and all good things, as they say, come to an end.

It was the tireless work of London copper Leonard Ernest ‘Nipper’ Read that eventually got the terrible twosome banged up for life, a long-time ambition of Read’s. It was the murders of George Cornell of the excessively violent Richardson gang, convicted gangster Frank Mitchell, whom the Krays sprung from Dartmoor Prison as a sort of mad, ill-advised publicity stunt, and finally of Jack ‘the Hat’ McVitie, that eventually ‘done for’ the brothers. Nipper has quite a big part in the second film.

Reggie marries his quiet, girl-next-door type girlfriend Frances Shea in the second film, but he’s so foul to her and her parents are so against the match that it all ends in tears, and more besides, for poor Frances.

She just didn’t seem to know the complexity of what she was getting in to. Ronnie was terminally jealous of his brother’s marriage and wife. Whatcha need anyone else for, Reg, when we got each uvver, was his answer to everything.

The only likeable people in the two films seem to be Dickie Baker, a member of the twins’ so-called Firm, and Lisa, the beautiful but slightly tragic escort/hooker. They look like they have a chance of happiness together at one stage, but they decide not to take it, for reasons best known to themselves. Sad. I love when she dryly calls him the Ghost of Christmas Past…! Cheeky but apt. Anita Dobson, by the way, of EastEnders fame, is back behind a bar here as the poor, put-upon bleached blonde pub landlady, Madge.

Well, there you go, anyway. The 1990 film, THE KRAYS, has real heart and we quite get to like the twins and empathise with them and their dear old mum, even though we know that the lads have done some really bad things.

Part of our empathy stems from the fact that the twins are played by the dreamy Martin Kemp and Gary Kemp from ‘80s British New Wave band Spandau Ballet, but it’s also a bloody good film as well. Here, the Krays’ close relationship with their mother, brilliantly played by Billie Whitelaw, has something almost of the mystical about it. Mother and sons are nearly supernaturally close, connected tightly forever through hearts and minds.

The women here are all such troopers too, such strong characters. They’ve survived Hitler and World War Two, they can make a few shillings feed everyone in the family for a week and they know what it’s like to be dodging blows from an unemployed and depressed alcoholic of a husband at closing time on Friday and Saturday nights. Such a great film. I thoroughly recommend it to your attention.

THE RISE OF THE KRAYS and THE FALL OF THE KRAYS, unfortunately, don’t come close to the 1990 film for heart, soul and characters we can empathise with. It makes the two brothers look evil, mentally deranged and just thoroughly unpleasant characters. There’s a good ‘Sixties soundtrack and you might find your nostalgia strings being plucked at the sight of ‘Sixties London, but there’s not a lot else to commend this gore-fest. Sorry…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

THE TERROR OF THE TONGS. (1961) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

THE TERROR OF THE TONGS. (1961) A HAMMER FILM PRODUCTION DIRECTED BY ANTHONY BUSHELL. WRITTEN BY JIMMY SANGSTER.

STARRING CHRISTOPHER LEE, YVONNE MONLAUR, MARNE MAITLAND AND GEOFFREY TOONE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Have you ever had your bones scraped, Captain Sale?’

This film provided Christopher Lee with his first ever top billing, despite the fact that he had already acted in three of Hammer’s most famous films: THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1957) as the Creature; DRACULA (1958) as the titular Count; and THE MUMMY (1959) as Kharis/The Mummy.

And his role as Dracula became the one with which he remained most identified, right up to his death in 2015 at the tender age of only ninety-three. Well, I was convinced he’d make it all the way to a hundred and even beyond, but sadly, it wasn’t to be.

And, just regarding his lack of top billing in these films, it was said of Hammer at the time that Peter Cushing was its star; Christopher Lee merely its monster. Well, never mind; he certainly came into his own in the end.

Having said that, action-adventure movie THE TERROR OF THE TONGS, despite its lush settings and gorgeously sumptuous costumes, is not my favourite Hammer film, nor yet is Chung King my favourite leading role of Christopher Lee’s.

I much prefer him as Dracula, as that sexy midnight lover from the coldness of the crypt who died, yet lived; as that sexually magnetic and dominant lover who makes real women out of Melissa Stribling’s Mina and Carol Marsh’s Lucy in the original Hammer DRACULA film of 1958.

In THE TERROR OF THE TONGS, he plays Chung King, the undoubtedly dominant and austere but at the same time oddly sexless leader of a terrorist organisation of organised criminals known as the Tongs, a name to strike horror into the hearts of Hong Kong dwellers in the early twentieth century. They’re the Chinese triads, the Japanese yakuza and the Italian-American mafia all rolled into one, they’re so feared and abhorred and, dare I say it, opium-raddled.

Chung King, while undeniably a dominant and cruel leader, just as you’d expect from the head of such an organisation, is sort of strangely asexual, with sadly not much going on behind the voluminous folds of his black kimono.

Why doesn’t he get to have sex, even implied, with any of the beautiful women who attend at his court? Or even with Yvonne Monlaur as Lee, the stunning sexbomb heroine of the film? Christopher Lee as Fu Manchu, in another series of films, not made by Hammer, doesn’t get any sexual action either.

Once the make-up people slap the old ‘epicanthic fold,’ apparently his least favourite of all the prosthetic enhancements, over his eyes to give him an Oriental look, they might as well be de-sexing him, it seems.

Makers of both THE TERROR OF THE TONGS and the FU MANCHU films both gravely under-used the sensuality and sexuality of their handsome heart-throb of a star, methinks. The films could have been so much more memorable if they’d only allowed him to be the man we know he could be in them.

Anyway, the plot of THE TERROR OF THE TONGS is relatively straightforward. Set in British-occupied Hong Kong in 1910, it sees Geoffrey Toone as maritime Captain Jackson Sale revenging the murder of his teenage daughter by the terror organisation known as the Tongs.

They didn’t kill her willy-nilly; they did it to protect their identities from becoming known, but Captain Sale is beside himself with grief nonetheless. He won’t rest until he tracks down the head of this brutal organisation and cuts it off at its source, so to speak.

The head is Chung King; he won’t react well to being tracked down and killed…! He might even despatch one of his infamous ‘hatchet men’ to treat Sale (Sale/Sail- geddit???) to the solemn splendour of a so-called ‘ceremonial killing.’

Don’t be worrying on Sale’s behalf, though. The hatchet men announce their presence well in advance. They holler at you from across a crowded street once they clap eyes on you, then they wave their hatchets in the air and advance upon you slowly across that crowded street.

This gives you plenty of time to assess the situation, light a cigarette, chat with a friend, escape into a waiting rickshaw or even kill your would-be assailant as he approaches.

Even if, by some miracle, he actually manages to wound or even kill you, you’ll have plenty of time to put your affairs in order while waiting impatiently for your would-be assassin.

Maybe, just maybe, if the Tongs had concentrated more on the killing element and less on the ceremony element involved, they may have lasted longer as an organisation of terror. It’s just a thought, that’s all. Make of it what you will.

Man: ‘Oh look, that hatchet-wielding Tong over there is hollering menacingly at me. Looks like my number must be up, so. Have I time to get that haircut at all? Oh yes, that looks much better. Brings out my eyes, you say? Why, thank you! Still coming over here waving his little thing, is he, that Tong fellow?

‘Oh well, in that case, I might just try to fit in that show I’ve been dying to see. Is there time for a bit of dinner too? Oh, time for dinner and a few pre-show cocktails, how spiffing! God, I’m tired now after all that smashing grub and booze. I think I’ll just have a nice little lie-down while I’m waiting…’ And so on. You get the picture.

Anyway, Sale has two allies in his desperate mission. Ally One is Marne Maitland (he plays the mysterious Malay in one of Hammer’s most magnificent films, THE REPTILE, 1965) as the Beggar, who is in reality the leader of a resistance movement against the Tongs.

Ally Two is Yvonne Monlaur as Lee, the former enslaved mistress of a Tong debt collector, who now has decided she loves Captain Jackson Sale, because he has accidentally freed her from her bondage by seeing off her captor-owner.

Yvonne Monlaur could just be the most beautiful of all the Hammer women. Her face, her voice, her body! She’s perfect in every possible way. Her performance as Marianne Danielle in Hammer’s THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960), in which she plays a young finishing school teacher breaking her journey to the school at the sinister, vampire-ridden Chateau Meinster, is an absolute joy to behold.

How her dresser must have enjoyed putting her in those fabulous gowns and dressing her gorgeous chestnutty hair for THE BRIDES OF DRACULA. Am I in love with Yvonne Monlaur? A little, yes, what of it? Do you blame me? What a beauty! She wears some stunning Chinese dresses with matching shoes in THE TERROR OF THE TONGS.

She’s pictured with Christopher Lee in some publicity shots for the movie, but they don’t have a joint love story in the film, more’s the pity. They could have made her Chung King’s unwilling mistress who falls in love with the dashing and much less cruel British maritime captain, Jackson Sale.

Two of the best-looking people on the planet having an on-screen romance or even some hot and steamy rumpy-pumpy? Phwoar. Ah well. Probably not in 1961. Think of the kerfuffle down at the Censor’s office…! And anyway, who am I to tell Hammer what they should or shouldn’t have done? It is what it is. Enjoy.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.